Mass consumption is on the rise, and the fashion industry is no exception. While 80 billion pieces of clothing are consumed annually (an increase of 400% from just 20 years ago), a whopping 85% of this figure ends up in landfill. This staggering figure is an indication of the mass demand from consumers and rapid turnover in trends we are currently facing. This phenomenon has brought about various environmental challenges that contribute detrimental to the mounting climate crisis, necessitating responsible waste management practices. If you’re interested to find out more about the environmental impact of fast fashion, as well as the importance of green waste removal practices to help combat this issue, keep reading.
What is Fast Fashion?
‘Fast fashion’ is an industry term that refers to the mass-production of high-turnaround, ‘quantity over quality’ trendy clothing, shoes and accessories – often made incredibly cheaply to maximise profit. To put this in perspective, a vast majority of the products found in mainstream high street and online clothing shops fall into the fast fashion category, with many of these shops even being owned by the same parent companies (for instance, the Boohoo Group also owns PrettyLittleThing, Nasty Gal and Debenhams, to name a few). While these garments are created to meet consumer demand and follow trends, this is done without consideration for the environment, safe waste regulations and even fair human labour practices.
While this has been common practice for years unnoticed by many, as the climate crisis escalates, trends are slowly shifting and consumers are wising up to the importance of investing in ethical goods. With the volume of sustainable fashion brands slowly increasing and beginning to dominate the global market, it’s crucial that we understand how we got to this point, as well as the ongoing environmental and social impact of fast fashion, in order to help us become more conscious and responsible consumers.
The Environmental Cost of Fast Fashion
The unsustainable implications of the fast fashion industry permeate virtually every area of our environmental concerns.
A significant amount of waste and pollution is linked to the pre-production stage of fast fashion. A report found that 15% of fabric used in garment-making is wasted – a figure that only increases when considering the type of garment, fabric design, cutting and mistakes in the assembly line. Already, this process poses a huge environmental burden before the products have even been made. Throughout a garment’s life cycle, energy use and carbon emissions are at their highest during the initial stages of fibre extraction, especially when using petroleum-based fabrics. What’s more, commonly used fabrics such as cotton and linen are highly water and labour intensive, and also require the utilisation of harmful pesticides which often pose risks to farmers and manual workers.
A sizable portion of pre-consumer waste that is often overlooked is deadstock: garments that are unsold, returned (especially those which have been purchased online) and ultimately discarded as waste. For instance, H&M was reported to possess $4.3 billion worth of unsold inventory in warehouses, which would go on to be incinerated at a waste-to-energy plant in Denmark. Although this method of waste disposal works to recover some of the disposable energy of deadstock that would otherwise be taking up space in a warehouse, it also generates lots of GHG and air pollution.
Alongside aluminium, textiles are amongst the top greenhouse gas emitters per unit of material. The fast fashion industry produces around 8-10% of global carbon emissions annually (approximately 4-5 billion tonnes), with a substantial amount of the industry’s high carbon footprint being associated with the energy sources used for production. For example, manufacturing plants in countries such as China, where a large proportion of the Western world’s garments are outsourced for production, are powered by coal and have a 40% greater carbon footprint than garments made in Europe.
The fast fashion industry is the second largest industry consumer of water, using 79 trillion litres per year. Studies have found that on average, it takes 2,700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt and 2,000 gallons for a single pair of jeans. To put this into perspective, the amount of water required to produce one shirt is equivalent to the amount of drinking water the average person consumes in the space of two and a half years.
Alongside basic manufacturing, there are also a number of processes that further contribute to damaging levels of water consumption. Textile dyeing and treatment, for instance, is a source of 20% of industrial water pollution.
Another significant pollutant are the fabrics that are used themselves, which are often made up of synthetic fibres such as nylon, polyester and acrylic – materials that take hundreds upon thousands of years to biodegrade. On top of this, even simply washing clothes made up of these fabrics releases 500,000 tonnes of microfibres into the ocean each year – this equates to 50,000 plastic bottles! As a whole, fast fashion contributes to 35%, or 190,000 tonnes of microplastic ocean pollution.
Green Waste Removal Solutions
To address the pressing issue of textile waste, the fashion industry and consumers alike need to prioritise green waste removal solutions that emphasise sustainability and recycling.
The concept of waste recycling is at the heart of green waste removal. Recycling textiles can significantly reduce the burden on landfills and decrease the demand for new raw materials, leading to conservation of natural resources and reduced energy consumption.
Tackling the challenges posed by fast fashion requires a collaborative effort from all stakeholders involved in the fashion supply chain. Clothing brands can take the initiative to design durable and sustainable products, using eco-friendly materials and production processes. Consumers, on the other hand, can opt for quality over quantity and support brands that prioritise ethical and sustainable practices.
Waste Removal Services & Skip Hire
Waste removal services and skip hire play a crucial role in the effective management of textile waste. Companies like Cherry Hill Waste offer skip hire services that cater specifically to the disposal of textiles and other recyclable materials. By availing these services, individuals and businesses can ensure that their waste is appropriately sorted and directed to recycling facilities.
The Environmental Benefits of Green Waste Removal
Emphasising green waste removal can lead to numerous environmental benefits that help mitigate the impacts of fast fashion.
Reduced Landfill Burden
By diverting textile waste away from landfills, green waste removal practices help reduce the pressure on these already overflowing sites. This, in turn, prevents the release of harmful greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.
Energy and Resource Conservation
Recycling textiles requires less energy and resources compared to producing new clothing items from raw materials. Consequently, embracing green waste removal solutions leads to a more sustainable use of resources and a reduced carbon footprint.
Promotion of Circular Economy
Green waste removal supports the principles of a circular economy, where products and materials are continually reused, refurbished, or recycled. By participating in this circular process, we can extend the lifespan of textiles and minimise waste generation.
Responsible Environmental Waste Disposal Services in Newcastle
As conscientious members of society, it is our responsibility to address the environmental challenges posed by fast fashion and embrace green waste removal solutions. Cherry Hill Waste is committed to promoting sustainable waste management practices and offers efficient skip hire services tailored to your recycling needs. Operating in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, our team aims to send as little waste as possible to landfill. At the moment, our commercial waste recycling reports let us know that we recycle around or over 90% of all waste we receive, and almost 0% is sent to landfill. Over the next few years, we hope to dedicate ourselves even further and recycle 100% of our waste.
By choosing responsible waste disposal and recycling practices, we can make a significant difference in building a greener and more sustainable future for generations to come. So wherever you’re in the midst of performing a house clearout, or your business is undergoing a revamp, contact us today to learn more about our waste removal services and how you can recycle your waste more responsibly. Together, let’s take a stand against textile waste and fast fashion’s negative impact on the environment.